Edward Said, the Question of Palestine, and the Continual Quest for Intellectual Freedom



As mentioned in the previous chapter, Ari Shavit of Israel’s leading daily newspaper Ha’aretz spent three days in New York interviewing Edward W. Said in the summer of 2000. In this interview, which was— in Said’s words— “eminently fair” and accurately reproduced in print throughout Israel— he traced the events surrounding the 1947–1949 expulsions of nearly 800,000 Arab inhabitants in an area known simply as “Palestine,” culminating in the birth of Israel.1 He also stressed the necessity of acknowledging what so many are pained to admit: the existence of nearly three million people, currently living under military occupation, who share among themselves the “Palestinian” identity, an identity that— while continuously contested— represents a suffering and tragic dispossession that stands at the very heart of the present Middle East conflict.


Collective Memory Scholarly Production Palestinian Authority Military Occupation Intellectual Freedom 
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  1. 1.
    The events of 1947–1949 have been extensively researched by Israel’s controversial “New Historians,” Tom Segev and Benny Morris. See Morris’s The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989); The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003);Google Scholar
  2. and Segev’s The Seventh Million (New York: Henry Holt, 2000).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Edward Said, Power, Politics, and Culture: Interviews with Edward W. Said. Gauri Viswanathan, ed. (New York: Pantheon, 2001), p. 458.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    On October 3, 2000, just four days after the second Palestinian intifada began, the Clinton administration approved the sale to Israel of Blackhawk helicopters and spare parts for Apache Longbow helicopters. As Noam Chomsky writes in his introduction to Roane Carey’s The New Intifada: Resisting Israel’s Apartheid (Verso: London, 2001), on October 3rd, 2000, “the defense correspondent of Israel’s most prestigious newspaper reported the signing of an agreement with the Clinton administration for ‘the largest purchase of military helicopters by the Israeli Air Force in a decade,’ along with spare parts for Apache attack helicopters for which an agreement had been signed in mid-September” (6). What is crucially important about the sale is that, at that time, the press was reporting on Israel’s use of US helicopters to attack civilian targets, killing or wounding dozens of people, and that the Pentagon informed (foreign) journalists that the new shipments had no conditions on use. In October 2000, Chomsky joined a delegation of journalists and other political activists in Boston, attempting to get mainstream newspapers— such as the Boston Globe— to report the unprecedented helicopter sale to Israel for civilian population control. These efforts, regrettably, were to no avail.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    From Kanafani’s obituary, printed in the Daily Star, Beirut’s English-language newspaper. Obituary information cited in Barbara Harlow’s “The Palestinian Intellectual and the Liberation of the Academy,” in Michael Sprinker, ed., Edward Said: A Critical Reader (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992), n.p.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Ghassan Kanafani, Men in the Sun and Other Palestinian Stories, Hilary Kirkpatrick, trans. (Boulder: Lynne Rainer Publishers, 1999), p. 74.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Barbara Harlow, After Lives: Legacies of Revolutionary Writing (New York: Verso 1996), p. 51.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    Bruce Robbins, “Homelessness and Worldliness,” Diacritics 15.2 (Fall 1983), p. 70.Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    Edward Said, “Intifada and Independence” in Joel Benin’s and Zachary Lockman, eds., Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising Against Israeli Occupation (Boston: South End, 1989), p. 6.Google Scholar
  10. 14.
    Edward Said, Culture and Resistance: Conversations with Edward W. Said (Cambridge, MA: South End, 2003), p. 53.Google Scholar
  11. 16.
    Edward Said, Representations of the Intellectual (New York: Vintage Books, 1999), p. 100.Google Scholar
  12. 22.
    Noam Chomsky, The Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians (Cambridge, MA: South End, 1983), p. vii.Google Scholar
  13. 23.
    Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (New York: Vintage, 1993), p. 178.Google Scholar
  14. 24.
    See Hussein’s Edward Said: Criticism and Society (New York: Verso, 2002), p. 283.Google Scholar
  15. 25.
    Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage, 1979), p. 23, p. 27.Google Scholar

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© Matthew Abraham 2014

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